Obituary: Thomas M. Disch
Thomas M. Disch Dead at 68
SF author, screenwriter, playwright, critic and poet Thomas M. Disch sadly killed himself on July 4, 2008, in his New York City apartment, at age 68.
Disch was born in 1940 in Iowa, U.S., grew up in the Midwest and served in the armed forces. After attending New York University for a brief period, he started publishing science fiction and poetry at an early age. His first novel was The Genocides in 1965. Part of the New Wave movement in science fiction and a frequent contributor to the magazine New Worlds, Disch won acclaim for his novel Camp Concentration and the Nebula-nominated serial novel 334. His novel On Wings of Song won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and was nominated for both the Nebula and the Hugo. His short story “The Man Who Had No Idea” was nominated for a Hugo and his “Understanding Human Behavior” received a Nebula nomination. His famous novella The Brave Little Toaster was first published in F&SF, then turned into a short novel, which won the Locus Award, Seiun Award and British SF Association Award, and was made into a 1987 animated film. Later in his career, Disch wrote a quartet of much acclaimed horror novels: The Businessman, The M.D., The Priest and The Sub. The M.D. was a Bram Stoker Award nominee.
A respected critic of the SF genre, Disch won both the Hugo and Locus Awards for his non-fiction work The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, and published a recent essay collection, On SF, in 2005. He wrote reviews, criticism and articles on books, theater and opera for such publications as The New York Times, The Nation, Harper’s Magazine, The Weekly Standard, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly, and served as an artist-in-residence at William and Mary College.
Disch was also known for his poetry, written under the name Tom Disch. His long poem “On Science Fiction” won the Rhysling Award in 1981. He wrote several poetry collections, including Yes, Let’s: New and Selected Poems, and A Child’s Garden of Grammar. He edited poetry anthologies such as The Ruins of Earth and Bad Moon Rising. He won the Michael Braude Award for Light Verse. His poems appeared in such publications as Paris Review, The Minnesota Review, Poetry, Light, and Parnassus: Poetry in Review. He wrote two major books of poetry criticism, The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters and The Castle of Perseverance: Job Opportunities in Contemporary Poetry.
Disch also wrote for the television series The Prisoner, and created two plays, Ben Hur and The Cardinal Detoxes. He was involved in the early days of computer games, helping to design the late 1980’s interactive software adventure game Amnesia.
Disch suffered from depression much of his life and was recently struggling with financial and health problems, as well as grief from the death several years ago of his long-time partner, poet and writer Charles Naylor, with whom Disch did several collaborations.
Disch’s last publications were the novella The Voyage of Proteus, published in December 2007, and a short novel, The Word of God, just out from Tachyon Publications. Tachyon plans to release Disch’s collection, The Wall of America, in October 2008.